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Fit in the OV: On the trails for fun and health

Photo of Nick Scala with Oro Valley Town Seal

Last spring, I was at Catalina State Park with a group of friends hiking up to the gorgeous Romero Pools. As we crossed the Sutherland Wash, I noticed a family heading back to the trailhead. We exchanged smiles, pleasantries, maybe a “howdy” or two as we moved past each other. It wasn’t until I heard one of the children say, “grandma” that I realized I had just passed a family of three generations.

March 15, 2017

I had to do a double-take, but sure enough, the whole crew was there: grandparents, mom and dad and a couple of youngsters, enjoying a day outside on the trails.

I started thinking of recreational activities that three generations can enjoy together, and to be honest, there aren’t that many. Hiking, however, is one of them. It offers that rare experience, allowing us to strengthen our bodies, minds and relationships. And Oro Valley is a great place to hit the trails, with a wide variety of challenges for all fitness levels and ages.

Oro Valley’s own Honey Bee Canyon Park, located off of Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, is a great place to start. Honey Bee isn’t known for its length, but what it lacks in distance it makes up for with a rich history and plenty of treasures to be discovered. If you’re pressed for time, you can take a trip down to the large rock dam made by sheep ranchers in the 1800s. It only takes about five minutes to get there, and you will not be disappointed. You will enter through a narrow doorway cut out of a stone wall that opens up to canyon walls towering over 30 feet above the sandy wash.

If you’re wanting to continue your exploration, the rock dam is less than 1.5 miles to the renowned Honey Bee Canyon Wash petroglyphs. The petroglyphs are located a little less than a mile north of the Rancho Vistoso Boulevard bridge on the Honey Bee Canyon Wash. Once you arrive, you’ll find a large rock (5 ft. tall x 10 feet wide) with various drawings—the most notable one being a drawing of an owl. The prehistoric petroglyphs are believed to be from the prehistoric Hohokam Native Americans.

You can continue to explore other treasures the canyon has to offer, or you can head back to the trailhead and call it a day. This would leave you with about a three mile round trip and an enriched cultural experience. In addition, Honey Bee Canyon Park has all of the amenities to enjoy an extended visit, including indoor restrooms, two covered ramadas, picnic tables, grills and drinking fountains.

Approximately five miles east of Honey Bee Canyon Park is the more challenging and expansive Catalina State Park, located at 11570 N. Oracle Road. Catalina State Park sits on nearly 5,500 acres. Yes, you read that correctly. That would be equivalent to 77 Honey Bee Canyons! Catalina State Park has several different hiking trails, ranging from the Romero Ruins Interpretive Trail of .75 miles to Romero Canyon Trail, which clocks in at nearly 15 miles round-trip and has an elevation gain of 3,300 feet.

Romero Pools—also in Catalina State Park—has become one of the more popular hikes in Oro Valley, and for good reason. It’s a challenging and rocky hike of about five miles round-trip, with an elevation gain of more than 900 feet. Most hikers manage to make it out to the pools in less than two hours and are rewarded with a beautiful hangout spot. Even on those cooler days, drinking water before, during and after is still essential when staying hydrated and safe on the trails!

Oro Valley’s landscape and community help to make it one of the premier hiking locations in the country. We here at Oro Valley Parks and Recreation like to celebrate that with the annual MOVE Across 2 Ranges, a hiking challenge held in partnership with our friends at Marana Parks and Recreation and Summit Hut. This year’s event is Saturday, March 11, and it’s growing more popular each year, with more than 300 participants. You’ll have a chance to hike through the gorgeous Tortolita and Santa Catalina mountains, and celebrate with friends at an after party with live music, food trucks and raffle prizes. Challenge distances are 6, 10, 15 and 21.5 miles. Visit to learn more and register.

By Nick Scala, Oro Valley Parks & Recreation Assistant recreation manager - Explorer Newspaper, 3/15/17